A long overdue entry in the list of complete recorded shows
albertatamazon | East Point, Georgia USA | 06/29/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The British seem to be doing a more thorough job lately in giving us complete scores of Broadway musicals. They have so far given us the first complete recordings of "South Pacific" and "The King and I", and whatever the merits of those recordings may be, their example puts to shame the American ones,who,at this point,are woefully behind in giving most of our greatest shows complete recordings.And now the British have shown up the Americans once again. This is the first recording of Sigmund Romberg's Viennese-American operetta"The Student Prince"(lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly) to feature the entire score of the show,and for the first time ever,audiences who have never seen the show can now get a taste of what a huge score it is,although part of the hugeness stems from the fact that about six of the many memorable tunes that make up this score are sung at least twice--some as many as four times.And although "The Student Prince" does not have a score that can measure up to the best of Jerome Kern,George Gershwin,Rodgers and Hammerstein,etc., it still boasts such songs as "The Drinking Song", "Deep in my Heart,Dear", and the haunting "Serenade".The sound is quite good,with a few reservations discussed below,and the orchestrations,from the New York City Opera presentation,are based on,and apparently quite similar to the ones featured in the 1924 original Broadway production. The voices are,on the whole,excellent,even if David Rendall,as the Prince,occasionally sounds as if his tenor got stuck somewhere in his throat and something were preventing it from truly ringing out. Wagnerian baritone Norman Bailey,as Dr.Engel,is clearly past his prime,but still has quite a good voice.And Marilyn Hill Smith's Kathie is truly gorgeous,even if she can't quite meet the standard set by Roberta Peters in the excellent 1963 Columbia LP of excerpts from the show. The only drawback in this recording--and it is truly a shame--is that the diction of the singers is not as clear as it should be. I don't know if it's the placement of microphones or the British accents,but in order to get a full appreciation of the music, I had to crank up the volume because the singers sometimes don't seem as if they're singing loud enough.(However,the effect here isn't NEARLY as bad as that on the soundtrack CD of Zeffirelli's film of Verdi's "Otello".)Nevertheless,this recording is a milestone in recorded musical theatre,and should be heard. It is a sharp rebuke to recording studios who have made up their mind that this music is too old-fashioned and have regularly ignored the world of Broadway operetta as brought to life by Sigmund Romberg,Rudolf Friml,and Victor Herbert."
R. M. Barge | Atlanta, GA USA | 10/04/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"An extra star to this recording, as it is the only complete recording of the stage version of Student Prince ever made. Kudos for the idea.
Unfortunately, the performance is not up to the standards of any of the numerous excerpt recordings. The bright spot is bass-baritone Norman Bailey in the supporting role of Dr. Engel, who even at the age of 56 sounds terrific. Although his voice is a bit heavy and his tesiturra a bit low for the part, he sounds perfect for the avuncular role of the Prince's mentor/chaperone.
It is hard to believe that the Philharmonia of London can sound this bad, or that Edwards can conduct a theater orchestra so ineptly. The orchestra sounds like an oom-pah band, and vocal entrances and attacks are softened beyond comprehension. The Ambrosian chorus sounds the worst of any chorus to record Student Prince. I can only ascribe at least *part* of the blame to an inept sound engineer.
David Rendall is quite adequate in the title role and I would be delighted to hear him in a live performance. Unfortunately, his recorded competition -- Mario Lanza, Robert Rounseville, Gordon McRae -- outclass him by far. (And he's lucky that the fabulous Richard Crooks, Romberg's first choice for the original production, didn't record it.)
Marilyn Hill Smith sounds like Jeanette McDonald suffering a bad head cold, with a blanket over her head and a big dose of soporific medicine in her stomach. She has neither power nor tone, and she even struggles to keep up the tempo in "Come Boys". Considering the sopranos that have recorded Student Prince -- most notably Roberta Peters and Dorothy Kirsten -- casting Ms. Smith in the part is inexplicable. She is simply inadequate.
Most of all, I cannot fathom the recording quality, which, to put it kindly, is spotty. Some pieces are barely acceptable in sound quality, but others sound as if they were recorded in somebody's garage in mono.
In summary, this is the worst version of "Student Prince" that I have heard recorded, but it gets an extra star for including the complete score.